The Searchers


The Searchers movie poster

I am a HUGE fan of John Wayne and John Ford movies. First, I’d like to say if you haven’t seen this movie, The Searchers, I highly recommend it. You get the chance to see John Wayne play his most complex character yet…. Ethan Edwards. Though I must warn you that there are a LOT of complex racial and sexual issues dealt with in the content of this movie.


The Searchers Trailer

“In ”The Searchers” I think Ford was trying, imperfectly, even nervously, to depict racism that justified genocide; the comic relief may be an unconscious attempt to soften the message. Many members of the original audience probably missed his purpose; Ethan’s racism was invisible to them, because they bought into his view of Indians. Eight years later, in ”Cheyenne Autumn,” his last film, Ford was more clear. But in the flawed vision of ”The Searchers” we can see Ford, Wayne and the Western itself, awkwardly learning that a man who hates Indians can no longer be an uncomplicated hero.” Robert Epert


John Wayne as Ethan Edwards

Ethan Edwards is an ex-Confederate soldier who never really surrendered after the end of the war between the states. For a couple of years he just wondered around the country, he may have even been an outlaw, nobody really seems to know. Then he decides to head for his brothers ranch in Texas. Ethan has a HUGE problem with indians and his adopted nephew Martin Pauley is 1/8 Cherokee, which causes some problems along the way. Then comes the massacre at his brothers ranch, where his brother’s family is slaughtered and his two nieces are taken captive (one of which is later killed also.) Which brings us to the 5 year quest to find his youngest niece that was captured by the Comanche’s who massacred his family. At first it was a mission to rescue her and bring her home but as time wore on it became more a mission to find her and kill her because “Livin’ with Comanche’s ain’t being alive.”

One of the most famous scenes from the movie….this photo really doesn’t do it justice though…you’ll have to see the movie to truly appreciate why it’s so famous.

“Ethan Edwards, fierce, alone, a defeated soldier with no role in peacetime, is one of the most compelling characters Ford and Wayne ever created (they worked together on 14 films). Did they know how vile Ethan’s attitudes were? I would argue that they did, because Wayne was in his personal life notably free of racial prejudice, and because Ford made films with more sympathetic views of Indians. This is not the instinctive, oblivious racism of Griffith’s ”Birth of a Nation.” Countless Westerns have had racism as the unspoken premise; this one consciously focuses on it. I think it took a certain amount of courage to cast Wayne as a character whose heroism was tainted. Ethan’s redemption is intended to be shown in that dramatic shot of reunion with Debbie, where he takes her in his broad hands, lifts her up to the sky, drops her down into his arms, and says, ”Let’s go home, Debbie.” The shot is famous and beloved, but small counterbalance to his views throughout the film–and indeed, there is no indication be thinks any differently about Indians.” Robert Epert

If you listen and watch closely you will also see that John Ford was a VERY crafty man. Though there are A LOT of racial and sexual issues dealt with in the content of this movie, there are also A LOT of “religious” and “faith symbols” used in this movie as well. I don’t want to say too much but in the end this is a story of redemption against almost “impossible” odds.


The shot at the end of the movie

Cast

John Wayne: Ethan Edwards

Jeffrey Hunter: Martin Pawley

Vera Miles: Laurie Jorgensen

Ward Bond: Capt. Rev. Samuel Clayton

Natalie Wood: Debbie Edwards

John Qualen: Lars Jorgensen

Olive Carey: Mrs. Jorgensen

Henry Brandon: Chief Scar

Ken Curtis: Charlie McCorry

Harry Carey Jr.: Brad Jorgensen

Antonio Moreno: Emilio Figueroa

Hank Worden: Mose Harper

Lana Wood: Debbie as a Child

Walter Coy: Aaron Edwards

Dorothy Jordan: Martha Edwards

Pippa Scott: Lucy Edwards

Robert Leyden: Ben

Patrick Wayne: Lt. Greenhill

Beulah Archuletta: Look

Jack Pennick: Sergeant

Peter Mamakos: Futterman

William Steele: Nesby

Cliff Lyons: Col. Greenhill

Chuck Roberson: Man at Wedding

Ruth Clifford: Deranged Woman at Fort

Mae Marsh: Woman at Fort

Dan Borzage: Accordionist at Funeral

Away Luna: Comanche

Billy Yellow: Comanche

Bob Many Mules: Comanche

Exactly Sonnie Betsuie: Comanche

Feather Hat Jr.: Comanche

Harry Black Horse: Comanche

Jack Tin Horn: Comanche

Many Mules Son: Comanche

Shooting Star: Comanche

Pete Grey Eyes: Comanche

Pipe Line Begishe: Comanche

Smile White Sheep: Comanche

Jamie/BITRCountryGirl

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2 responses to “The Searchers

  1. Stitchin' Bitches

    I haven’t seen this one. I went to add it to my Netflix queue and it is one of those that you can watch instantly on your computer. Guess I’ll do that tonight since DWTS is over with.

  2. This is such an excellent movie. They don’t make ’em like this anymore but heck, they don’t make trailers like this anymore either!

    The Texas Woman

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